It has been suggested to me that I ought to consider hiring out as a professional DM. This is in recognition that others do it; that others do it very badly; and that a service is a service, even if it is the running of a 'game.' It has further been explained to me that a fair price runs about $100 a session, plus whatever fees to rent a conference room (or other space) for four hours. Split between five people, this isn't so bad a price.
While I don't mind being paid for doing something I like, I can think of a few things that worry me about it. First off, that I would probably, to save time, have to provide the players with pre-generated characters, probably at some level above first. I know this is a common thing for those readers out there, but I tell you honestly that in 30 years I have never done it. Every player who has ever run in my world A) has rolled up their own character; B) has rolled up a character of the FIRST level; and C) has never been privileged to run a character from another campaign. Moreover, I'm happy to say I've witnessed personally the action of creating every character - no one has ever done rolled any of the critical dice (abilities, background, hit points and so on) before arriving, or while in another room or even unwitnessed off to the side during a campaign.
Frankly, the thought that I might have to hand out a bunch of pre-made characters of fifth level in order to save time fills me with, well, loathing. But let's get past that.
Problem two: I might have to run an adventure. Something with a hook, a railroaded party and a definite end, timed to fit four hours of running. Ugh. Is that getting paid for something I like? No. Apparently, the reality would be being paid for running a sick imitation of my campaign; a processed, diluted version of everything I've tried to make this game into for my players through the years.
I don't see the point, really. If it isn't the real game, why bother?
But then I had a thought, seconds prior to beginning this post. It came from a news story about a taxi driver, Eric Hagen, who asks his passengers to pay whatever they feel is a fair price for his services. This gets me to thinking.
The principal reason to have pre-made characters and to have a cut-and-dried adventure for those who might have to pay to play D&D begins from the recognition that people want their money's worth. They don't want to lay down $50 in order to sit around watching other people roll dice and blandly stumble around a local town while they figure out what they want to do. They paid money, they want return.
Add to that some of the horror stories about some 'professionals' I've heard about and naturally a few players who have been burned before are anxious to protect themselves.
But why not establish out front that they don't have to pay? If it's made clear that pay would be desireable, and that effort doesn't come cheap, might they not be willing to give some amount out of a sense of guilt? Particularly when you consider that if they feel my services are worth nothing, they get one free running and that is it. I'm not inviting people back who aren't pleased.
You're probably thinking I'd be out of pocket for the conference room rental. I'm not so sure a conference room is really necessary. There must be other places, where arrangements can be made for space. I'd love to hear any ideas. I'd also like to hear about how it might all work from an 'non-profit/business by donation' perspective. And, of course, is it practical?